JUNEAU (AP) -- A shortage of herring is frustrating Southeast sport fishermen, who rely on the bait to target salmon.
None of the local stores contacted by the Juneau Empire on Friday had herring, and some were fielding calls from people as far away as Oregon seeking the bait.
SuperBear grocery store General Manager Pat Shea said he has bought bait from a wholesaler in British Columbia for two decades, but this year the herring eluded fishermen there. Now he's looking to Washington state, which opened a herring fishery April 15, he said.
''The herring in Washington is still too deep to catch, so they don't have a handle on whether the fishery is going to be good or bad,'' said Shea, who said it could take weeks before stores are stocked again.
Rick Wolfenberger of Fisherman's Bend got wind of the shortage in March and tried to stock up, but wholesalers were rationing inventory to customers, he said. The store received only 30 percent of its usual order and, in turn, limited customers to six packages a day.
Wolfenberger said it could take a month to get more herring.
''Realistically, I've been told the last week of June. That's been the shocker,'' said Wolfenberger, who is steering customers toward spoons, hoochies and plugs, which are types of lures.
Alaskan & Proud grocery ran out last week, said meat market manager Tim Wolfe.
''In the 23 years that I've been here, I've never seen a shortage of herring like this,'' Wolfe said.
The shortage is bad timing for the Tlingit and Haida Central Council, sponsor of this month's Spring King Salmon Derby.
''It makes it more difficult for people to seriously consider going out fishing because without any bait, obviously your chances of catching a king are cut in half,'' Derby Director Archie Cavanaugh said. ''We'll just have to become a little more creative on trolling and start falling back to spinners and hoochies and plugs.''
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